Being a teacher is not about “teaching,” it’s about making students learn…
I spent two straight hours today dictating notes on Communism in the USSR and China. Students finished the session with 18 notes cards filled with bullet points for terms that could appear on the Global History Regents Exam next Tuesday, along with pictures and movements for each to help them remember the terms. Here’s what I (more or less) told them when we were done:
I’m sorry we ran out of time today, because it means you haven’t learned anything. It’s great that you have all these notes written down, but until you re-read the information, teach it to others, compare and contrast it, apply it to new situations, and, finally, analyze and assess it through writing, you will not have learned a thing. Learning is doing, and you haven’t done much today. We’ll start with that tomorrow.
Today I “played school” (the phrase is not mine, but it’s been years since I read where I’m stealing it from). I pretended to “teach;” the students pretended to “learn.” My classroom would have looked good to anyone watching through the window, and perhaps, my students might even do well answering some multiple choice questions on the info next week. In fact, my class looked like 90% of those I sat through in my high school. But nothing of any lasting value happened today, because my students didn’t really do anything meaningful with the facts they wrote down. Fortunately, the state exam that will determine whether or not they graduate will not hold them or me accountable for this.